Families Neighbouring Bugoma Forest Living in Fear of Eviction

Audio 5

More than 1,000 families in three sub-counties neighbouring the contested Bugoma Central forest reserve in Kikuube district are living in fear that their ancestral land could be grabbed by Hoima Sugar Limited if the company wins the battle to destroy Bugoma forest reserve for sugarcane growing.

The residents are from the sub-counties of Kyangwali, Kabwoya and Kiziranfumbi. Over 30 villages are bordering the contested forest reserve.

The villages are Nyairongo,Rwembaho,Rwenkobe,Sayuni,Kabegaramire,Muhangaizima,Nyambogo,Karokajengwa,Mukarehe,Katengeto,Burungi,Muyenga,Karukarungi and Kimaramu. Others are Sayinebe,Karodi,Buzibwera,Kitoma,Mukayembe,Nyakabale,Ndongo,Kasene,Nyaigugu,Nsozi,Kyarushesha,Kikonda,Kitooke,Kisonsomya,Nyakabale,Kyabasana,Bujongoro,Kyabayanja,Kisindi and Rwenkobe among others.  

The sugar factory leased close to 22 square miles of the contested Bugoma Central forest reserve land from the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom for sugarcane growing for 99 years.

However, the National Environment Management Authority -NEMA found 13 of the 22 square miles, unfit for a sugar plantation and recommended their preservation since it’s a wetland and forest reserve.  

As a result, the authority allowed Hoima Sugar factory to cultivate sugarcane on the remaining 9.24 square miles covering the grassland, establish an urban center on 1.26 square miles, an eco-tourism centre on 1.97 square miles and restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve.

They also recommended the preservation of another 0.156 hectares for the cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest.  

Covering 410 square kilometers of a protected area and a stretch of forest measuring 40 kilometers, Bugoma is a tropical forest in Kikuube district that was gazetted in 1932. It is endowed with 24 species of mammals, 465 species of trees, 359 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies and 130 species of moths.  The forest reserve is a migratory route for wild animals and a catchment for rivers that drain into Lake Albert, where oil has been discovered.

According to the locals, there is no any protection that will be accorded to their land from being grabbed if Hoima sugar limited is adamantly left to destroy Bugoma forest since the majority of them do not have titles for their land.

Desire Nkurunziza, the Chairman LCI Nyairongo village in Kabwoya sub-county says currently his people are living in fear of their land being grabbed by the company, should it be left to destroy Bugoma forest.

He wants President Museveni to refund money that Hoima Sugar limited gave to the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom so that the forest can stay hence giving protection to their ancestral land adjacent to the forest reserve.

//cue in;” we have a…

Cue out:…land as a community.”//

Alice Asiimire, a resident of Kaseeta in Kabwoya Sub-county says the government should immediately open the boundaries of the forest to safeguard land.

//cue in;” This is the…

Cue out:…are passing here.”//

Charles Twongyeirwe, the Chairman LC1 Rwembaho a village that is also adjacent to the forest reserve says the residents do not have any guarantee to protect their land if Hoima Sugar Limited is allowed to destroy Bugoma forest.

//cue in;”Mpura tika nkolera…

Cue out:…Naba Biyisire bata .”//

Vincent Alpha Opio, the LCIV Councilor for Kabwoya sub-county says the Kingdom and the government should immediately open the boundaries of the forest reserve to save the local communities settling adjacent to the forest from falling victims of land grabbing.

//cue in;”Bukama bwi nakwija…

Cue out:…hanu tu jwahire.”//

Daniel Muhairwe, the Buhaguzi County Member of Parliament says it is paramount for the government to come out clearly to give its position on the boundaries of Bugoma forest so that the local persons are protected.  

//cue in;”Niza kubuza minister…

Cue out:…na heina kukangira.”//  

Andrew Byakutaga, the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Prime Minister has maintained his position that the land that was leased to Hoima Sugar is not part of Bugoma forest but the Kingdom’s Ancestral land that is adjacent to the forest reserve.  

Beatrice Anywar, the Minister of State for Environment while visiting the contested forest reserve on Monday said that next week, a group of officials from her Ministry and that of Ministry of Lands were going to embark on opening up boundaries of the forest.